The Magic Quill #132: Harvey Face to Face
by Robbie Fischer
Contest winners in ABC order: Dragonic, Echoreyn, greyniffler, h_morgan, Linda_Carrig, PotterPig, Snuffleupagus, TWZRD, and zanaboo
HEALER: All right, Mr. Sphaeris, let’s hear from you. Have you learned what started you on the road to this place?
PATIENT SPHAERIS: I suppose it was my wife’s cooking.
HEALER: Is that so?
SPHAERIS: You have no idea what an awful cook she is. She can burn water. Her bangers and mash taste like tinned sardines with a side of sweaty socks. The neighbors have complained about the taste of her tikka masala getting into their food. Fresh meat begins to turn when it sees her coming. I’m only alive today because she can give food poisoning food poisoning. Once, while pulling a batch of croissants out of the oven, she dropped one and it went right through the floor, then cracked a six-inch concrete slab in the cellar.
HEALER: I see. So all this is your wife’s fault?
SPHAERIS: No. She does her best. Only, I couldn’t take it any more. So I asked a friend for help. He mentioned a friend of a friend, who was an ace potioneer. I went to my friend’s friend’s friend’s place and explained my problem. He offered me a free sample of Saborlite.
HEALER: Ah, yes!
SPHAERIS: He told me to mix a little of this powder with a cup of water, and anything I ate for an hour afterward would taste just like water. And it worked! I was able to eat anything my wife cooked without choking, and she was so much happier…
HEALER: But that isn’t all the Saborlite did, was it?
SPHAERIS: Well, no.
PATIENT SPANKISON: The RMB has tagged Saborlite as a “gateway potion.”
HEALER: Exactly. It establishes a form of dependency that leads you to other habit-forming potions. Go on, Mr. Sphaeris.
SPHAERIS: Well…I knew I shouldn’t have, but I decided to try mixing the Saborlite into something with more flavor than water. I would slip over to Madam Puddifoot’s for a cup of chocolate, tip the powder in, then go home for dinner, and…
SPANKISON: And everything tasted like chocolate.
SPHAERIS: I ate more and more of my wife’s food. I must have gained fifty pounds in three months. I knew I had to keep using the Saborlite, because my wife’s cooking was just as bad as ever and I did like a good chocolate. So I went back to my friend’s friend’s friend, and he gave me another potion.
HEALER: Ah! Let me guess. Gravis Reducto?
SPHAERIS: How did you know?
HEALER: Mrs. Ahmed here had that little problem with Coco Replenis, don’t you remember? Take one sip of the potion and a chocolate drop appears in your mouth every hour for six hours? Take two drops, and you get two chocolate drops an hour, and so on.
SPHAERIS: Really? I wouldn’t have minded that.
PATIENT AHMED: Neither did I, so I took bigger and bigger doses till I was all but choking on the stuff.
SPHAERIS: Er…who said that?
AHMED: Then I had your problem, and needed to drop some weight. And it was Gravis Reducto with me, too.
SPHAERIS: I’m sorry, but…where are you?
AHMED: Not the result I was looking for, was it? I’m as fat as ever, only no one ever complains that I’m standing in one’s light these days. Here, I’ll move over to the wall, where the light will be between us…
SPHAERIS: Dumbledore’s nose! I didn’t know…I can see the wall through her…!
AHMED: Be thankful you stopped in time.
SPHAERIS: I didn’t even start. The git gave me the wrong potion. It was mislabeled. Whatever it was, every time I took it I couldn’t stop doing the next thing I did. I took a sip of it before fixing the nib of my pen, and before I could stop myself I had whittled every quill in the house down to nothing. Everywhere I went, if I saw a quill, I pulled out my penknife and hacked at it till it was gone. I couldn’t stop myself, because while I was doing it I was delirious with joy.
HEALER: The term for this effect is PISCES: Potion-Induced, Sorcerous-Compulsive Excitation Syndrome.
SPHAERIS: I destroyed all the pens at work, so they sent me home on forced sick leave until such time as I should ask, in writing, to come back. But as long as I had this obsession with trimming quills, I couldn’t write anything. I got thrown out of Gringotts, Flourish and Blotts, and the stationer’s, who now has a thick-necked fellow guarding the door, looking out for me. Meanwhile, I tried another couple of doses of this so-called Gravis Reducto…
HEALER: Oh, no.
SPHAERIS: After the second dose, I went walkies with the dog. For once I didn’t feel in any hurry to finish the walk, which at first made the dog happy. But then I couldn’t stop walking, until the dog was so tired that he made me pick him up and carry him. Which is no small matter, when you have a Bassett hound. I had to carry that fat beast twelve miles. Felt like my back had been flayed with hot wires by the time we got home. Then, as soon as I set him down on the floor, I had an urge to take him out for another walk! Poor animal only made it half a mile that time, then he bit me so that I dropped his lead, ran home, and hid from me. I spent half a week on my hands and knees, trying to get him to go walkies with me, while my wife sneaked out with him whenever my back was turned – or when an owl would come with a load of owl-order quills for me to shred.
HEALER: And you took this potion one other time?
SPHAERIS: Yes, but that time I took too much of it, and then I couldn’t stop drinking it, so I took it all. Afterward I had an agonizing thirst for the stuff, and all I wanted to do was get to that potioneering git and buy some more of it. But I couldn’t get anywhere, because I found myself repeating everything I did. I had to turn the doorknob five times to the right, three times to the left, and repeat eleven times before I could open a door. I couldn’t use the toilet without first lifting the lid and setting it down eighty-eight times. I opened and closed the curtains until they fell apart. I scrubbed a hole in my teacup. I shaved myself bloody, cut the grass till the lawn was bald, and spent one whole afternoon opening and closing my zipper. That’s when my wife Stunned me, and I woke up here.
HEALER: And right lucky you are. Do you know what that second potion was?
SPHAERIS: Not what that faint lady took, I reckon.
HEALER: No, it wasn’t Gravis Reducto; it was Training Potion.
HEALER: When it was first invented, Training Potion was meant to help people break bad habits, or to form good ones. But the proper dosage is one drop, diluted in a cup of water. The next thing you choose to do, or not to do, will then become a lifelong habit. Unfortunately, Training Potion turned out to be incredibly dangerous. Do the wrong thing after taking it, and you’re messed up for life. Take a bit too much, and the result is PISCES. Take a great deal too much, and the potion itself becomes a habit. It’s ironic, really, how such a well-intended elixir caused more torment than the problems it was meant to address.
SPHAERIS: But there is a cure, isn’t there?
HEALER: No, I’m sorry. Your case is hopeless. All right, let’s welcome Mrs. Yenta back to our circle. Mrs. Yenta has been fighing an addiction to Polypense Potion, which does what, Mr. Dillworth?
PATIENT DILLWORTH: Depending on what you put into it, it enables you to witness a past event from the point of view of another person, or object.
HEALER: And what danger of this potion did you learn about, Mrs. Yenta?
PATIENT YENTA: You lose touch with what’s going on around you, that’s what. Got the ingredients out of proportion and spent six hours thinking I was a tree overlooking my neighbor’s garden, when I meant to be experiencing Mrs. Next Door’s thoughts and feelings. When I came out of it, burglars had cleaned out my whole house, while I stood there like a statue, powerless to stop them.
DILLWORTH: It must have been very frightening, waking up in an empty house like that.
YENTA: Actually, the frightening bit was that the burglars stole me, thinking I was a priceless sculpture. I had to blast my way out of a cargo container and Obliviate half a dozen dock workers.
SPHAERIS: Serves you right, in my opinion, you nosy cow.
YENTA: You weren’t asked for your opinion. Anyway, this is the third time this has happened. Can’t see any way to stop it, since the ringleader of the burglars is my late husband’s nephew, who always seems to know when my mind is elsewhere. Poor Herbert had a soft spot for the boy, wanted to make sure he was provided for, so he left a loophole in the house security spells, just for kin.
DILLWORTH: If you closed the loophole, you could go on being a nosy cow with no risk.
YENTA: I have considered that, but there was one other side-effect…The whole time I was that tree in the back garden, a woodpecker was hammering on my head. I had a headache for three days, and my ears are still ringing. No, it’s time to quit. Only…well, Mrs. Next Door has such a colorful love-life. It will be hard.
HEALER: We’re all here to support you.
SPHAERIS: Except me, that is.
YENTA: That’s all right, dear. Your case is hopeless.
HEALER: All right, who else haven’t we heard from? We have, er, Mrs. Sedulus, who discovered a heretofore unknown side-effect of Mrs. Skower’s Magical Mess Remover. Mrs. Sedulus?
PATIENT SEDULUS: Oooh. Shiny. You’re shiny. You, too. Everything is sooooo shiny.
HEALER: Are you with us, Mrs. Sedulus? Perhaps you can explain why you’re wearing two pairs of sunglasses in here?
SEDULUS: Can’t see anything without them. Everything becomes a blaze of glory. Ooooooh!
YENTA: I don’t understand. I’ve used Mrs. Skower’s Magical Mess Remover for years, and nothing like this has ever happened to me.
HEALER: Yes, but evidently you applied the potion to the object that needed to be cleaned.
YENTA: You don’t mean…she didn’t drink it?
SEDULUS: I wish you would keep your mouth shut. Your teeth are so bright, they hurt my eyes.
YENTA: But that’s absurd! There are warnings on the label!
SEDULUS: I have a horror of dust, dear. Had to do something.
YENTA: Yes, but the thing to do is get rid of the dust, not dose yourself with a potion that makes everything look shiny!
SEDULUS: That’s easy to say when you don’t have a horror, I say a horror, of dust. And really, please, lips closed.
YENTA: Is there any hope for her?
HEALER: Yes, of course. Mrs. Skower is whipping up a batch of the antidote right now. But Mrs. Sedulus is here to redirect her…
PATIENT O’HARE: She’s here for vocational rehabilitation.
O’HARE: She used to char for me. Worst charwitch I ever had, never so much as touched a dust-rag. Seemed to think getting soused on cleaning fluid would make everything look cleaner than it was, but it doesn’t work on other people, you see. Daft old biddy.
DILLWORTH: And yet, here you are, in the same predicament as the rest of us – including her. A little less of the superior tone, if you please.
O’HARE: I did not choose to come here, and I don’t have a problem.
DILLWORTH: And I’m sure that orange fuzz all over you is completely normal.
O’HARE: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
YENTA: Sure you do. You look like a walking peach.
HEALER: Mr. O’Hare was hospitalized against his wishes, at his family’s request.
O’HARE: I don’t see how it is anybody’s business. If I want to grow a little hair…
HEALER: Yes, but Hauston’s Hair Potion is supposed to be rubbed on your scalp. You took it orally, hence the orange fuzz all over, and the cravings. It’s intoxicating, isn’t it?
O’HARE: I have nothing to say.
HEALER: You may not want to say anything to us now, but you will be going through withdrawal pains soon. We’re all here to support you.
SPHAERIS: Except me.
HEALER: Yes, all of us except Mr. Sphaeris.
SPHAERIS: I mean, face reality, man. Nobody wants their husband or father to look like a shaved orangutan.
HEALER: Now that’s enough.
O’HARE: You’re just envious.
SPHAERIS: Too right. I can’t stand the fact that my skin lacks that freshly upholstered look. And that healthy, glow-in-the-dark color must really come in handy when you come to cross a busy street. Better than a traffic policeman’s vest, it is.
HEALER: Mr. Sphaeris, one more remark and I must ask you to leave.
O’HARE: Don’t worry, it’s all right. Anyone can see he is with child to try the same look on himself. Of course, I doubt it would look anything like as distinguished on him as it does on me.
HEALER: Oh, my. Don’t tell me you’ve been taking Charisma Potion as well?
O’HARE: Of course not. My personal magnetism is perfectly natural. People have always found me irresistably attractive.
PATIENT SIOBHAN: Chngh!
HEALER: This is even more serious. Even a small overdose of Charisma Potion can result in delusional self-infatuation. I’ve seen it before – the effects are irreversible. I know of a case, here in St. Mungo’s right now, whose effects persist even after the patient’s long-term memory was wiped out.
PATIENT NIALL: I wish my memory of this bunch of loonies…
HEALER: No! Niall, don’t!
NIALL: …could be wiped out.
HEALER: [Profanity deleted]! Who removed the [profanity deleted]’s [profanity deleted] lip seal?
NIALL: Excuse me? Are you all right?
HEALER: Linguetta Legata! That should hold you for a while.
NIALL: Mmmf? Vrrf hnng fffft?
HEALER: You’re in the Lewis Bell Ward at Saint…oh, never mind. We’ll fill you in later. And that brings us to our last new patient, Mr. Surdo. Would you like to share your story with the group? … Mr. Surdo? Hello? …
PATIENT SURDO: What did he say?
HARVEY: He wants you to say something about what brought you here.
SURDO: Oh. Beg pardon. I had an ear infection with a cough, so I browsed around the apothecary for something to make me feel better. There was a small section labeled “Hearing Remedies,” and one of them sounded like it would be good for coughs, as well…
HEALER: What was it called?
HARVEY: He asked what it was called.
SURDO: Er…Kophos something…
HEALER: Whoops. It wasn’t kophos epilektika, was it?
HARVEY: He asked if it was kophos epilektika.
SURDO: Yes, that’s it exactly! How did he know?
HEALER: It’s an ancient liquor that used to be given to men on their wedding night. Its name means “selectively deaf…”
SURDO: I’m terribly sorry, but I can’t hear a word you’re saying.
HEALER: It makes you unable to hear the voice of anyone you find annoying.
SURDO: What is he saying?
HARVEY: He says there’s nothing wrong with you.
SURDO: Poor fellow. Must have lost his voice. Hee hee.
HARVEY 2 [charging into room]: So! There you are!
SPANKISON: Harvey! It’s you too! Both of you!
HEALER: I say, this is a closed session, you can’t…
HARVEY 1: What are you doing here?
HARVEY 2: Gathering reinforcements. Something has gone wrong at the Drains. I should ask you the same thing.
HARVEY 1: I’m just recuperating from a bit of time-travel fatigue. You’re supposed to be in the Crystal Cave, aren’t you?
RIGEL: I let him out.
HARVEY 1: Did you?
HEALER: Who is this? I must protest. Underage visitors are not allowed on this…
RIGEL: Bite a sock, sawbones. I’m older than you are. That is, I would be if I hadn’t taken all those Yesterday Pills…
HEALER: Aha! Potion abuse! You’ll be admitted…
RIGEL: Shut it.
HARVEY 2: You know, Harvey, I’ve been a bit irritated with you for the past five or six centuries.
HARVEY 1: Really? Why, Harvey, what ever for?
HARVEY 2: Must you ask? You shut me in that miserable cave, after all the help I was going to be to you.
HARVEY 1: I think you’ll find that you’re quite wrong. I let you out of the cave. Rigel here is the one who put you in.
HARVEY 2: How’s that?
HARVEY 1: Nothing sensitizes you to the subtleties of cause and effect quite like living backwards in time.
HARVEY 2: This is a waste of time. We can argue about it later. Everybody who can wave a wand without hurting himself had better come with us. We have to storm a penthouse flat.
SPHAERIS: Will there be quills there?
HARVEY 1: Hundreds of them.
SPHAERIS: I’m in, then.
RIGEL: Hey! Hands off!
SURDO: I’ll go.
DILLWORTH: Count me in.
YENTA: Me too.
HEALER: I say! This is quite out of order!
O’HARE: Linguetta Legata!
O’HARE: Thank you for that. It makes me feel dangerous. Take me with you!
HARVEY 2: All right. Anybody else?[pause]
HARVEY 2: Spanky?
SPANKISON: I don’t know. I can’t control my powers. I may use deadly force without meaning to.
HARVEY 1: If you realized what’s at stake here, you might consider it worth the risk.
RIGEL: Er…what exactly do you have hidden in your flat?
HARVEY 1: Well…
HARVEY 2: Leftovers.
RIGEL: Leftover what?
HARVEY 1: Er…
HARVEY 2: Well…
SPANKISON: Oh. That.
HARVEY 2: You see our problem.
HARVEY 1: I…that is, we…did all that we could not to interfere with history. But we had a lot of close calls.
HARVEY 2: It’s a wonder we didn’t blow up the universe.
SPANKISON: Yes, I see. In the wrong hands…
HARVEY 1: The Essence of Merlin could wipe out history as we know it.[even longer pause]
O’HARE: Oh, my! We’re about to save the world!
YENTA: That’s right. You’re going to look good. That’s what matters.
SPANKISON: Well, let’s go then. But everyone had better stay behind me.